[Story] A Place Between War and Murder [Gragas, Riven, Jax, Skarner]
"There is a place between war and murder in which our demons lurk."
Excerpt from the poem, "Scarlet Shon-Xan"
The wind picked up, and Jax's robes flapped about while he stood still as a lamppost. Beside him was, look at that, a lamppost. His trusty weapon, worn and bent a little, faced the wind and the bright sun beside him, stuck in the cool grass. A robed summoner made three figures standing together on the rolling green foothills of the great barrier. Emerging from the crest of a smaller hill, Skarner carefully scuttled to Jax's side to join them. He leaned his head toward the grandmaster with absent eyes. "I am not sure anymore." said Skarner.
"He'll come." replied Jax as if it already happened. "My gut knows he will."
In the distance came Gragas lumbering over the hill ahead. His red beard stood out above the blue and green of nature. He quickly approached the group with a face absolute in gayness. "Oy. What's the deal 'ere?"
The summoner removed her hood and smiled sincerely. Her brunette hair was bound into a neat bun, exuding a stately aura which distanced herself from most of the world. "We're all ready for the trip to Zaun, just like you wanted."
Skarner lifted one set of his legs and inspected them. Jax slapped a hand on Gragas' shoulder. "Took you long enough!" he said with a gruff warmness. "Now let's go hit those spots we used to rumble in like old times!" Jax uprooted his lamppost and twirled it idley.
Gragas let out a small chortle. "Oh yeah, and with company!" Using his gigantic hand, he picked up the surprised summoner by her waist and tossed her on top of his shoulders. "I remember you." he said smiling. "The lady at the office. How's the ear?"
"What? Oh, b-better." said the summoner, rubbing her ear with one hand and keeping balance with the other. "You really have to mind your surroundings. Take some time to see what's in front of you."
"Good, good." nodded Gragas. "Let's cover some ground then."
They walked through the better half of the morning. Jax, the summoner and Gragas talked jovially as the the trail quickly led them to the outskirts of urban Zaun. Skarner looked about nervously. They all entered a lively and well kept tavern, which looked almost big enough to seat a band of elephants, crowded and musty with Zaunite exhaustion. Women in alluring bunny costumes served drinks to the higher class patrons, who were a large minority of the population. Skarner and the summoner began to feel uneasy as the alcohol slid down the green hued table and subsequently into their throats. Gragas didn't seem to notice that he began to sweat, causing his overwhelming girth to glisten under the auburn glow of magical light fixtures above. He and Jax sat on adjacent sides of the small table. The summoner slowly made herself comfortable seated next to Skarner, who stood nearly motionless in anxiety.
Jax took a swig out of his mug. "I knew you could do it pal." he said. "Ashe and Tryndamere are a real tough duo to bargain with, but man, you and the buisness are in the clear now!"
"Ah, was nothin'" said Gragas. "No need to bargain much over the taste of my brew!" Jax and the summoner joined in Gragas' laughter.
"Graggy Ice huh?" said the summoner. "What's next? How could you top that?"
Gragas shrugged. "No idea. No idea. I might start playin' around with things soon. Singed is a real slave driver, I don't have all the time in the world anymore."
The summoner ferociously downed another draft of ale at the chemist's name.
"Singed still being an ass. What news." said Jax.
"Let's not start down this road. My drink is starting to taste funny." said the summoner.
"I fear that the entire Freljord is going down that road." said Skarner mournfully. "Just saying."
"At least it'll end up colder than this beer." said Jax. "It's close to steaming."
The party continued to drink in spite of their complaints, save for Skarner, who idly snapped his claws to the slow sorrowful, romantic tune of a horned instrument over on the far corner of the tavern.
"Are we gonna grab your things while we're here Gragas? You said you were running low on hops for your set-up at home." asked the summoner, pulling back a strand of her hair.
"Yeah, we'll get to it." said Gragas. "When I find a good reason to."
Jax set down his mug carefully. "What's wrong?"
"Haven't touched the brewery in a long time." said Gragas. "Been drinking less lately."
"The business." nodded the summoner. "Not much time for experimenting you said."
Time passed slowly. A conversation would flare up and die in a matter of seconds. One of the costumed women snaked through the tables and chairs to reach the circle. She carried a rough orange platter with glasses full of auburn liquid. Her tan skin and deadly eyes exhibited a solitary strength unfitting of the bunny ears adorning her ruffled grey hair. Jax watched as she set down another round of drinks for their table. Taking note of her features, he raised his chin and offered his three fingered hand in greeting before she turned to leave. "Hiya."
The lady froze in place. "You didn't see me."
"Sit down, whoever you are." said Gragas with a jolly smile. "You need to take something off your mind, I can tell." He grunted as his large hands nearly grasped her entire body as he forcefully set her down on a chair Jax nimbly pulled with his leg.
The summoner continued to drink. She gave the bunny girl a fleeting look of disbelief, then blinked. A coy smile soon followed. "What's your name?" she queried.
The woman's eyes tensed for a second. Her elbows rested on the table. "R-Ragna."
"Oh, sounds sexy." sighed the summoner as she leaned forward.
"You must know the three of us already." said Skarner. He clicked his pincers twice and squinted with crusted glossy eyes.
Jax passed a full mug of suspicious beer to the bunny girl. "Stop humoring yourselves." he said gravely, turning his gaze to a barstool behind her. The air froze solid. "Why're you here?" he slurred.
"Just a, uh, part time job." said the bunny girl, matching Jax's gravity. "I'm, uh, in an apprenticeship under one of the chemists here." Her eyes darted about the room.
"Ah. Yeah, great stuff." said Jax. His head bobbed precariously from side to side. "You remind me of someone I know. Another champion.
The bunny girl took a modest draft from the mug as her heart nearly stopped in panic. "Do I?"
"Yeah." began Gragas. "Do you know Singed?"
The summoner and the bunny girl both gulped down a long swig of alcohol simultaneously. "He's famous around these parts, yes." said the bunny girl. Her pupils were already dilated.
"Still a jerk though." said Jax. "Would you agree? A total jerkass."
"Yes." said the bunny girl with a short chuckle. "If he were here right now I'd...I'd sock one to him on the spot. You know what I mean?"
"Same here." said the summoner.
"He's upstairs actually." said Gragas. "Taking care of some business. We're partners in brewing. He may be a jerkass, but without him I...ah..." He stared at his own mug in deep thought.
"Wouldn't be successful?" offered the summoner with a trembling finger. "'Cuz that's the first thing that came to mind. Money an' stuff. An' bein' depressed. An' stuff.
"I'd better get going soon." said the bunny girl, already swaying to and fro like an upside-down pendulum. "I have to take care of something with Singed believe it or not. He's a real sucker for wine..."
"Stay with us, Riven." said Skarner flatly. "You are here to do something below your conscious. We cannot allow it."
"That sword you're passing off as a platter ain't for picking teeth, aye?" said Gragas. Riven clenched her white gauntlet into a fist on the table. "Blow off that steam with us. Let's talk." said Gragas.
"What huh?" asked the summoner.
Jax laid a hand on Riven's shoulder. "You were giving hints everywhere at the Institute."
Riven exhaled and slumped onto the table, burying her face in her elbow in a shallow pit of inebriation. "****it, you people kill me." she growled in pitiful frustration.
A lifetime of silence passed as the exile traced her fingers across the runic inscription on her broken sword-turned platter. Riven kept her head under the others except to rise up periodically like an aquatic mammal from the ice, take in a swig of beer, then sink downward to the same spot. The summoner, completely oblivious to the crisis averted, made an effort to comfort Riven by playing with her white hair.
"No sword flailing?" jested Gragas. "Thought you'd put up more of a fight."
"It's the alcohol." mumbled Riven.
"Works for us." said Jax.
More silence. Skarner clicked his pincers as the music stepped a bit slower. The mourning turned to contemplation.
"I don't know why I even came out here." said Riven. "I was ready to kill him in a bunny suit, but...I don't know. In a ****ed bunny suit. A bunny suit. My own terms."
With a giggle, the summoner moved on from Riven's hair to her bunny ears. "Your terms are lookin' pretty far out of...reach, sister."
"Listen here Riven and listen good." said Jax. "The war is over."
The exile closed her eyes and squirmed. "I'm not fighting a war, I wanted to kill a man."
"Singed is a nobody." said Gragas. "He ain't worth the trouble. I would know."
"I was too angry to care. I was angry all the waaay from walking here."
"War an' murder cause more problems than they fix. Here 'specially-there's no problem to fix."
"Singed is dead on the inside. He's dead, he laughs to cry an' tells people what to do then forgets to go home and do his own craft. He can't quit this new business, and he ain't got the time or the patrons to keep up his talent. Same thing with me."
Riven began to drink through harder liquor. She sat upright and waved her white gauntlet about as she talked. "****it I don't care! I'm a god****ed soldier! I fought in Ionia! No durned place to go, like in those songs about the man in the desert but different! I made a new purpose for myself, an', an', an' it's about the Noxian way! About being stronger! Strong enough to...to..."
"Kill some guy in a bunny suit that's two cup sizes too large?" said the summoner, cradling her head on her palm.
Riven gradually sank downward again in anguish, crossing her arms over her chest. "Yeah."
"Murder ain't a show of strength." said Jax. "It's a show of cowardice and being stupid."
The exile closed her eyes. She downed more booze. "Just give me a minute." Riven groaned. "I think I'm gonna faint."
The summoner turned to Riven and squinted a bit. "Your face is caked in sweat." she said. Riven feebly tried to reach for a drink, but decided against it and laid her head on the table. Gragas pinched a napkin up from a dispenser nearby.
"Here, look up." he said. Riven did so, and felt a cloth running across her forehead. It lingered on her temple for a second, then went down to her cheek, under her chin and on her lips. Her eyes were watering up with mysterious tears, so Gragas dried them up as well. His callous hands were thick and clumsy, but they got the job done. "That aughta do it. All cleared up now."
Riven slowly leaned back and glanced up at the ceiling. "Thanks Gragas."
"That was strange." said Skarner. "You people are strange. So strange."
"It's the alcohol." said Jax.
Skarner pondered for a second, then shrugged as best a scorpion could. "Works for me."
"You're a strong bunny no doubt." said Jax as he leaned back in his chair. "It's these moments of weakness that...screw you over. That's why we have friends."
"It's a funny thing." said Gragas. Riven put her elbows on the table and rested her head in her hands. She began to smile. "I'll stay here and grab the malt for my own brewery. You fellas go on ahead and I'll catch up." Gragas said.
"Is this what it's like having friends? All the time?" asked Riven.
"I would like to believe so. Is it?" said Skarner.
Gragas didn't answer as he silently got up and lumbered over to a backdoor, no doubt to some secret supplier. He thought hard about what would become of Graggy Ice in the future, of how he might make plans to abandon it, his old creation, for newer brews. There were people who would take a lot of interest in something new, and the thought comforted him greatly.
To be honest, I didn't think this pairing would work out at all. But I was wrong. Excellent job on getting this to work AND describing the back story of a skin. Bravo :D
Much better than anticipated. I like it. :D
-While the story was written to spotlight Gragas, Riven fans will recognize the poem from her lore entry
-In the splash art for Riven's Battle Bunny skin, she is seen assaulting a figure with a striking semblance to Tyrant Swain accompanied by Beatrice, his raven.
-The story had much content cut out in the interest of keeping the theme and tone consistent, as well as preserving a sense of dignity. Discarded concepts include:
*A fist fight between Riven and Gragas which would have lead to the entire tavern erupting into violence, reaching a climax with Riven beating Singed into unconciousness
*Skarner giving Jax a ride on his back
*A full appearence by Singed himself, making for some awkward situations
*The summoner, in place of Gragas drying Riven's face, would simply offer to caress her face with her hand before Riven would fall asleep as it was happening
*Riven not getting drunk in the first place
-Riven's allusion to the man in the desert is not a reference to anything at all.
-Her fake identity is a reference to Ragna the Bloodedge from Blazblue. While they share little in personality traits, both characters use similar hair care products and preference for weaponry
When will we see more?
Not what I expected, but nicely done
I think this story is entitled to one more bump.
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